New York City Public Schools is committed to creating a safe, supportive, and respectful learning environment for all students. In response to recent and unacceptable incidents of antisemitism, Islamophobia, and other safety concerns, the district is implementing a comprehensive plan to address these issues and reinforce our commitment to safe schools.
“As Chancellor of New York City Public Schools, I am deeply committed to fostering a culture of understanding, respect, and safety throughout our system. The recent incidents of antisemitism and Islamophobia we see both across the country and in our schools are not only alarming but go against the very values we stand for. Let me be clear: we have zero tolerance for any form of bigotry or hate,” said Schools Chancellor David C. Banks. “After engaging with community leaders, staff, families, and students, we have put together a comprehensive plan to meet this moment head-on. We are taking decisive steps in the areas of education, safety, and engagement to ensure that every student and staff member feels valued and welcomed in our schools, irrespective of their background. Our children are the future, and we have the responsibility to nurture a generation that is not only well-educated but also empathetic and respectful of diversity.”
Chancellor Banks’ full speech follows.
Education, Training, and Support for Our Adults
- Classroom-Facing Support for Principals and Teachers: NYC Public Schools is enhancing its support for educators to address the issues of the day in their classrooms in multiple ways:
- This spring, all middle and high school principals will participate in professional learning focused on navigating difficult conversations—workshops specifically designed for moments like these. This training will then be turnkeyed from school leaders to their entire staff.
- We are also expanding our instructional resources and materials focused on Islamophobia and antisemitism, with input from the interfaith community.
- These supports will build capacity to facilitate student discussions on sensitive topics, create teachable moments in our classrooms, and prepare the next generation of civic leaders.
- Expanded & Updated Diversity Trainings: The district is enhancing its diversity training, materials, and resources for staff to include specific components on antisemitism and Islamophobia, equipping staff with the knowledge and skills to create more understanding and welcoming school environments and workplaces. We will continue to build on this work based on staff feedback.
Safe, Welcoming Schools
- Clarifying our Approach to Discipline: The NYCPS Discipline Code is clear – bullying or bigoted actions in school must be met with clear consequences. All NYCPS principals will receive updated training on how to apply the Discipline Code to respond to incidents with appropriate, direct consequences, while providing opportunities to educate and remediate behavior in ways that help students to grow. We will also be providing additional bullying training to Respect for All liaisons, in alignment with Respect for All week in mid-February.
- Clear Reporting Pathways and Expedited Resolution: No child or staff member should feel bullied or harassed in a NYCPS building. NYCPS is prioritizing investigations into antisemitism and Islamophobia allegations through our Office of Equal Opportunity. We will be reminding students, staff, and families that incidents should always be shared with the school’s principal (or a supervisor for non-school based staff), who will take the appropriate next steps. However, if a student, staff, or family member needs an alternate pathway for any reason, they can utilize the following options:
- Submit a report at schools.nyc.gov/safety
- Call our bullying support line at 718-935-2288
- E-mail us at firstname.lastname@example.org
- A Plan Informed by Engagement: NYCPS leadership has spent the last two months meeting with dozens of faith leaders from across New York City, including UJA Federation, Bridging Cultures, the Jewish Community Relations Council, the Muslim Community Network, Project Witness, the Council Of Peoples Organization, the City Council Jewish Caucus, the Jamaica Muslim Center, the Jewish Children’s Museum, and many others.
- NYCPS Inter-Faith Advisory Council: Chancellor Banks is convening an interfaith advisory council to support NYCPS’ ongoing response and to engage the NYC faith community on NYCPS priorities more broadly. Reverend Jacques DeGraff will co-chair this council, whose list of members is currently in formation and will reflect the rich diversity of both the NYCPS community and our faith communities.
- Parent Leaders: We will also be offering a series of anti-discrimination workshops to parent leaders, beginning in February.
In this challenging time across our city, country, and world, we are committed to fostering respect and inclusion in New York City Public Schools. This comprehensive plan, focused on education, safety, and engagement, will enable us to meet this moment.
“Our job as educators is to help our students to be better than we are. To do that, we need schools that are safe for children and adults. Without that safe space, the good work our educators and students want to do cannot happen. The Chancellor’s plan provides the tools and focus school communities need if we are to meet this challenge,” said Michael Mulgrew, president, United Federation of Teachers.
“Nothing is more important to school leaders than the safety and well-being of their students and staff. We applaud the Chancellor and his team for developing this thorough plan to combat bigotry in our schools, for authentically revisiting the discipline code, and for providing additional resources focused on antisemitism and Islamophobia. We look forward to our continued partnership to keep our schools safe and cultivate respect and inclusion across our entire public school system,” said Henry D. Rubio, President of the Council of School Supervisors and Administrators.
“Safety and security are key components of receiving a quality education. Over the past several months, I have been terribly disturbed by the rise in our schools of reported acts of hatred directed at those of the Jewish faith, both teachers and students. My senior JCRC-NY colleagues and I have communicated directly with Chancellor Banks to express our alarm,” said Rabbi Michael S. Miller, CEO Emeritus, Jewish Community Relations Council of New York. “David Banks has been a cherished friend over the past three decades, and I know how deeply he cares for this City, its schools, its families, and its communities. I am ready and eager to engage as a thought partner with the Chancellor, along with other religious leaders, as the Department of Education deliberates on, and takes crucial and necessary steps, to expunge antisemitism and all other forms of hatred, bias, and bullying from the public school system. To accomplish this indispensable goal, we must set aside differences and coalesce. The stakes are too high not to succeed.”
“As we are heartbroken by events in the Middle East, I appreciate the NYC Public School System taking into account the well being of our students. Now more than ever, Palestinian, Arab and Muslim youth need the social and emotional support along with their Jewish and BIPOC peers who cannot make sense of what is happening in our world. I commend Chancellor Banks on his leadership in this moment,” said Dr. Debbie Almontaser, Founder & CEO, Bridging Cultures Group.
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